Mea Culpa: Epicenter

Subject: Mea Culpa: Epicenter
From: Ken Banks <edits -at- hawaii -dot- rr -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2006 08:35:25 -1000

> An *epicenter* is the location on the surface of the earth directly
> above the subsurface earth movement that caused an earthquake. A
> nice, precise word, yet journalists are slithering all over
> themselves to use it when *center* is the correct word.

I just did what I should have done a long time ago, I picked up my American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, which allows epicenter to be used to mean, "A focal point." In a usage note, AHD states that its 82% of its usage panel "approves of figurative extensions of its use in dangerous, destructive, or negative contexts." The panel is less accepting (62%) of it's use as a "focal point in neutral or positive events."

Al Geist's point concerning the various responsibilities of on-air people, writers, copy editors, and city editors is on the money. I've been burned more than once when inappropriate headlines ran over my stories. When I write to journalists (writers), I'm careful to allow for this.

Humbly yours,


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